Jan 13 Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida

I was entranced by this novel. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel (P.S.) is a very well written novel, and although in places I felt that Vida was trying perhaps a bit too hard to write well and to make her descriptions fresh and different, for the most part I really enjoyed the story. I wanted to keep reading, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and even though I didn’t love the main character, Clarissa, or agree with all of her choices, the story kept me going.

It was neat to read about Norway and Finland so soon after having read His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) because I felt I was still sort of in that mode – and this book was also somewhat about the Northern Lights too! So that was neat and totally not planned.

This novel really made me wonder how much of the story was autobiographical, as most good novels should and it certainly made me want to visit that part of the world and stay in an ice hotel! Though this is definitely a book that you need to read with a cup of tea by your side – reading the book just makes you COLD! I was also very interested in the history of the Sami people and the Reindeer Herding rights described and the very different type of life that people lead up there.

The part of the book that I took the most issue with was the way in which Vida portrayed violence – specifically rape – and the effect that it has on people’s lives and the choices they make. It seemed to me that Clarissa spends the entire book trying to get her mother to take responsibility for her choices and to connect with her mother and find out who her real father was and in the end she runs away just like her mother did. I am not trying to judge people who find themselves the victims of such circumstances at all and certainly everybody makes the choice that is right for them, but I really wasn’t sure that Vida’s answer should be that running away, however horrible is the way to go. Yes, making a new life for yourself is possible and healthy, but I don’t feel that Clarissa did right by Pankaj. Yes he lied to her, but life and love is about forgiveness to a certain extent. Anyhow, I would recommend the novel, but not necessarily the message.

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